LITTLE ROCK — The state Health Department on Wednesday reported the state’s first death this year from West Nile virus.
The department said 15 cases of the mosquito-borne virus have been reported so far in 2012. It did not disclose the name, age or location of the person who died from the disease.
The federal Centers for Disease Control and Protection has reported 1,118 cases and 41 deaths nationwide, the highest number of cases reported to the agency through the third week in August since West Nile virus was first detected in the United States in 1999. About 75 percent of the cases have been reported from five states: Louisiana, Mississippi, Oklahoma South Dakota and Texas.
West Nile virus poses serious problems for certain people, according to Dr. Nate Smith, deputy state health director and state epidemiologist.
“Most people who become infected will never even know it,” Smith said in a statement, noting less than 1 percent of those who become infected will develop serious disease.
“However, we are very concerned about the people who are at highest risk for serious complications from this infection: The elderly; immuno-compromised persons; those who suffer from serious chronic illnesses; and some others who might become very sick if they get infected,” he said.
West Nile virus is transmitted to people by infected mosquitoes. In the United States, most people are infected from June through September, and the number of infections usually peaks in mid-August.
Health officials say the best way to prevent West Nile virus is to avoid mosquito bites by draining standing water from yards, flower pots, buckets and kiddie pools; wearing protective clothing when going out at dusk and dawn, when mosquitoes feed; and using insect repellents during outdoor activities.